The intimacy and theatre of family life and everyday events are at the core of James Drinkwater’s art practice. Inspiration might be found in the coastal life he shares with his partner and children in his hometown of Newcastle, or in something as obscure as the architecture of his son’s vintage Japanese cameras – Drinkwater is drawn to the beauty right in front of him, the magic under his nose.
Throughout his career which began aged five with classes at the Ron Hartree Art School, Newcastle, Drinkwater explored both abstraction and figuration before developing his distinctive aesthetic. He shifts between painting, sculpture, assemblage, collage and drawing in the studio but it is primarily painting where his ideas are most fully explored. His canvases are viscous, sensual, and physical with the oil applied in thick swathes of colour by palette knife, rags and his bare hands. His contemplations on themes and concepts drive both materiality and composition.
James Drinkwater is a Newcastle-based painter and sculptor. He studied at the National Art School, Sydney (2001) and has held 30 solo exhibitions since 2004. A major survey exhibition, ‘The Sea Calls Me By Name’, was held in 2019 at the Newcastle Art Gallery. In 2016, Monash University’s engineering faculty commissioned a major sculpture/relief from the artist which spans fifteen metres, hanging permanently at Monash University’s Clayton Campus. In 2017, Drinkwater collaborated with iconic Australian fashion house ALPHA60 to produce a capsule collection. In 2022, Drinkwater was included in the seminal exhibition ‘Singing In Unison – Artist’s Need to Create On the Same Scale That Society Has the Capacity to Destroy’ curated by Phong H. Bui and Cal Mckeever from The Brooklyn Rail alongside Sean Scully, Julian Schnabel, Lauren Bon, Ron Gorchov and Dorothea Rockburne. The same year saw the artist collaborating on a new Ballet ‘Storm Approaching Wangi – and Other Desires’ with choreographers Skip Willcox, Belle Beasely and composer Joseph Franklin, commissioned by Multi Arts Pavilion, MIMA Lake Macquarie where Drinkwater designed the sets and costumes and performed in the final scene. 2023 will see two major surveys of the artist’s work; ‘Passage’ at the NCCA, Darwin and ‘At Mid Career’ in Canberra at The Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, curated by Terance Maloon.
James Drinkwater’s work has been included in group exhibitions throughout Australia and internationally in Berlin, Leipzig, New York and London. He has been awarded the Marten Bequest Scholarship (2011), the Brett Whiteley Travelling Scholarship (2014), the John Olsen National Art School Life Drawing Prize (2002) and has been a finalist in many prizes including the Wynne Prize three times, Sulman Prize and the Dobell Drawing Prize.
James Drinkwater has undertaken international residencies in Leipzig, Titjikala, Kenya, Paris, Tahiti and Ubud. His work is held in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, HOTA Gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, Newcastle Art Gallery, Maitland Regional Art Gallery, Artbank, Macquarie Bank, Macquarie University, Newcastle University, Schnabel Collection, New York, Monash University, Allens Law Firm and significant private collections both in Australia and overseas.
Image: The Sea In Her Mind While She Sleeps2023, oil on canvas, 137 x 198 cm